Scotland's Digital Future: infrastructure action plan

This action plan outlines our commitment to a world-class, future proofed infrastructure that will deliver digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020.

3 Introduction

In March 2011, the Scottish Government published Scotland's Digital Future: A Strategy for Scotland [1] . The strategy set out the following ambition:

  • that next generation broadband will be available to all by 2020, and that significant progress will be made by 2015.

Scotland's Digital Future - Infrastructure Action Plan details the action required now and in the coming years to deliver world-class digital infrastructure for Scotland, taking forward the targets we set out in 2011 and setting out our intent to move forward at pace and in a way that ensures we are internationally competitive.

This action plan sets out our approach to achieving a core national infrastructure that will support the delivery of the other three strands of Scotland's Digital Future - progress towards digital public service delivery, an increase in digital participation and growth in the digital economy.

Scotland already has world-class strengths in many areas relating to digital technology - our digital media industries, our education facilities and our telehealthcare services.

However, the digital infrastructure in place in Scotland today does not deliver for all of Scotland and will not have the capacity everywhere to service future demand. All trends point towards an increase in the coverage and speeds of digital access required as the number of internet enabled devices increases and as technology continues to evolve, such as cloud computing and TV through the internet. To accommodate these trends it is clear that we will need faster, more reliable upload and download speeds and the ability to use multiple devices in our homes, hospitals, further and higher education institutions, workplaces and in our schools.

We are committed to ensuring that we have world class digital infrastructure in place that can meet growing and changing demands for digital services. Given the phenomenal pace of technological change and consumer demands, there is no fixed definition of what world-class access will look like in the future. In today's terms world-class would require speeds of between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. In 2020, it is difficult to predict what world-class speeds will be, however there are technological solutions to infrastructure now, such as fibre, that experts believe can provide the backbone of a future proofed infrastructure capable of accommodating future demand at increasing speeds, for decades to come. We will use the best available expertise to make sure Scotland is best placed.

This is what we need to put in place. This is a major infrastructure programme and this plan sets out the actions we will take to put in place, not only the backbone digital infrastructure that Scotland needs now, but the right infrastructure to ensure that Scotland can remain globally competitive for years to come.

Where are we now?

Our current analysis indicates that around 50% of premises in Scotland are in postcodes where high speed broadband is available (speeds of at least 24 Mbps) and that this could increase to around 60% by 2014. In terms of mobile coverage, Ofcom data indicates that 85% of the population in Scotland has a 2G (voice) signal from at least one provider and around 63% of the population has a 3G (voice and data) signal from at least one mobile provider [2] . For Scotland to get to a position where our digital infrastructure can be considered world-class will require a step change in the levels of coverage for both fixed and mobile technologies.

Map 1 shows in black, current and planned next generation broadband coverage in Scotland.

Map 1 shows in black, current and planned next generation broadband coverage in Scotland.

The private sector is investing and will continue to invest where it is commercially viable to do so. This investment and on-going commitment to Scotland is welcome, but it will not be sufficient to reduce the digital divide and deliver the economic opportunities that full participation in the digital revolution can deliver.

It is clear that significant levels of public investment will be needed to achieve our objectives in those areas where the market will not go and within the timeframe of our ambition. That does not mean that the public sector alone should meet the costs of delivering in our more challenging areas. Securing the national digital infrastructure we all need must be seen by all interested parties - public, private, local and national government - as a partnership for digital progress.

It is our expectation that the private sector will play their part in ensuring that all of Scotland is able to benefit.

Broadband speeds of 40 Mbps and upwards will make a significant impact on the way people do business:

Cloud Computing allows data and software applications to be hosted remotely in a secure environment. Many cloud based business applications are now available - ranging from office software (email, calendars, word processors and spreadsheets) to more sophisticated business software like customer relationship management systems. Data can be accessed easily from anywhere with an internet connection - at work or at home. It also means that all documents can be retrieved from the cloud if the hard drive becomes corrupted.

It can enhance and encourage greater collaboration on projects by sharing ideas and information from different locations in real time through a secure workspace in the cloud.

Next generation broadband can make remote access to data much more efficient. This can encourage more flexible working and allow people to work remotely or at home. This can increase productivity, reduce travel, improve work-life balance, reduce environmental impacts and save money.

Communication with customers and colleagues can be transformed through widely used video call solutions, like Skype, to high-resolution video conferencing suites. Next generation broadband means that the quality of the video is perfect - with no time delay - and can allow people to join in from various locations across the world. It can also provide the ability to speak to customers face to face no matter where they are in the world, giving a more personal style of relationship. For a rural textile business this could mean showing fabrics and samples of work in progress. It can also vastly reduce travel time and costs on telephone calls.

For a design business that has to send and receive large data files, next generation broadband can significantly improve productivity - very large files, images and video can be sent and downloaded instantaneously.

It also allows businesses to trade online and expand their customer base and markets, giving an advantage over slower moving competitors. For a remote bed and breakfast (B&B), it allows the owner to promote the B&B and surrounding area with large high quality images and videos, thus enhancing the experience for customers all over the world. It also allows the B&B owner to use an online booking and secure payment facility.


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